Holiday weight gain, is so common it’s like a right of passage, a testament to how good a time you’ve had. Many people consider the holiday season a time to take a deserved break and celebrate. Generally, the festivities will be loaded with sweets, carbohydrate rich foods, cocktails and lots of excuses for not going to the gym.
And the results of this time of gorging merriment? Well, the average United States inhabitant increases about one pound per week during the period, which comprises of six weeks from Thanksgiving through to New Year .
Gaining Weight – An Inch Here, An Inch There
You may be thinking 5 or 6 pounds over a course of a month and a half isn’t so bad, particularly if you have no weight issues. But on the flip side, gaining weight in the holiday season, when you already suffer from obesity, is going to have a serious impact. I mean, 6 pounds over the course of 10 years is 60 pounds, and that’s if you stay at a plateau weight the rest of the year and every year after. I’m sure you’ll agree, no tutti fruti roll or key-lime pie is worth lugging that extra luggage around.
It is estimated that this holiday weight gain accounts for more than half the annual weight of people in the US, whether they’re overweight or not. This means the holiday period is the season where people are more likely to gain most of their excess weight for the year, even though it only consists of a few weeks.
However this is not set in stone, there are lots of things you can do to not only avoid gaining weight during the holidays, but even lose weight during this time.
6 Tips To Avoid Weight Gain During the holiday season
1. Keep a food diary to plan your meals
Most people who keep a food diary, write down what they eat after consuming it . At that time it’s too late, any wrong decisions have already been made and you’re on a slippery slope. Instead, try keeping your food diary proactive.
That is, start your day writing exactly what you plan to eat, and then stick to it. While it’s good to indulge occasionally, make sure it’s a treat that has been “planned”. That way you’ll avoid the “how did I finish a whole chocolate cake in one sitting” blues.
The diary will also keep you on track as well as accountable for your daily food intake, sidestepping any temptation to gorge, or at least diminishing it.
While recording your daily food intake, try and observe how good you feel while eating healthy foods. Take time to think about how this will help you achieve your weight loss goals, or how it will stop you gaining weight. The old adage is true; “he who fails to plan, plans to fail”.
2. Eat when you’re hungry
Have you ever tried to “compensate” when you know an opulent festive meal is around the corner? That is, not eat anything until the big event? If you have, you’ll be probably be familiar with this scenario; you starve yourself for days, then when the festivities arrive, you charge at the buffet table like a ravenous buffalo, devouring everything in sight. This is a big mistake and a sure fire way to holiday weight gain! All you’re doing when you “save your stomach” is guaranteeing that you’ll eat larger amounts of food later.
A better option is to eat foods in reasonable quantities in advance, that way you will feel satisfied and less prone to stuffing yourself on fatty or sweet treats. In fact, it is likely that if you have soup before a meal, research has shown this results in a total of 20% fewer calories (including the soup!).
3. First Eat Fat To Lose Fat
If you’ve never heard of the idea of eating fats to lose fat, then you are missing out on a great way to stop holiday weight gain. Fats will help you stay feel full while also stimulating your metabolism. So, first consume servings of healthy fats as “snacks” before serving desserts and starchy portions could help you keep your cravings controlled and total food consumption.
The best choices of fats are olives, olive oil, coconut oil, butter and nuts – macadamia nuts are particularly useful as they are high fat and low in protein.
4. Take a Walk
Taking a walk after eating has several significant benefits. First, it will turn your attention away from food, so there’s less chance for eating a second helping, or having too much desert.
Second, while helping your digestion and metabolism, physical activity will help lower your levels of blood sugar and insulin (ie, the hormone that stores fat). If you can get your body to start burning fat, even during festivities, you have a good chance of avoiding holiday weight gain.
5. Program Your Brain For Health
Make no mistake: –cookies highly processed foods, cinnamon rolls, bread, crackers, sausages, common in the festivities, are designed to encourage your primal urge to consume calories, fat, sugar and salt .
From the intense advertising, to the recipes tested in laboratories – all this is orchestrated to keep you buying more junk instead of real food.
As you consume a growing these highly processed products amount, you lose connection with healthy food base –and their children grow up without knowing the value of homemade foods. In addition, your brain will be conditioned to want to consume these unhealthy foods, so it is almost impossible to resist.
For example, when you eat sugar, it stimulates the production of natural brain opiates – a key ingredient in the process of addiction. Basically, your brain becomes addicted to stimulating the release of its own opioids, in a similar way to an addicts desire for morphine or heroin.
One way to help “reprogram” your brain is to identify where the limiting beliefs are coming from. For example, did you grow up with parents who made you clean your plates, even when you were full? Maybe you were constantly around parents that yo-yo dieted, so you began to imitate the same traits in your own eating patterns. Whatever the limiting belief is, write it down and challenge them.
Remind yourself daily that you can stop eating when you’re full and you can always have more later if you choose. The ability to tackle a negative relationship with food goes a long way in stopping holiday weight gain.
6. Try Intermittent Fasting
Holiday weight gain was never an issue years ago. Unlike society now, our ancestors rarely had access to food every day. For this reason, it’s only logical that our genes are hard wired to benefit from intermittent fasting. It takes about six to eight hours for your body metabolize its stored glycogen, after that it really begins to make the transition to burning fat.
However, if you are replenishing your glycogen levels by constantly grazing, it makes it more difficult for your body to use its fat stores as fuel. Research has also shown that a glycemic fast causes a lowering in body weight compared to animals that had not performed fast.3
Other research suggests that fasting triggers a series of hormonal and metabolic changes that promote health, similar to those that happen when you exercise. Historically speaking, fasting is common, and has been part of spiritual practices for thousands of years.
Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
Furthermore, modern research has confirmed that there are many good reason to fast intermittently, including:
Normalization of insulin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health, as well as insulin resistance is a factor that contributes primarily to almost all chronic diseases, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer
Standardization ghrelin levels, also known as the “hunger hormone”
Stimulate the production of human growth hormone (HGH, for its acronym in English), which plays an important role in health, fitness and slowing the aging process
Lower level of triglycerides
Reduced inflammation and fewer free radicals
With all these benefits, it’s clear why intermittent fasting is the choice of many people worldwide. If you are healthy and decide to try intermittent fasting, do so gradually (do not try fasting for 24 hours on the first day). Ultimately, you may choose to fast between 12 and 16 hours, as often as possible.
You could also consider fasting every other day, or simply to delay certain foods, such as skipping breakfast and exercising on an empty stomach.
There are many options, just listen to your body, and do it gradually until you’re ready to stretch out your fasts – this is particularly important if you’re used to multiple meals per day.
Likewise, you could start by eating your food earlier in the afternoon or evening, and fasting overnight, while you sleep.
My personal schedule is to is to restrict food consumption for a period of six to seven hours, typically from noon to 6 or 7 pm
In the day I exercise in the morning, and have a spoonful of Pure Power protein. This provides the nutrients I need, especially leucine, which stimulates muscle growth and muscle repair.
Recommended Weight Loss That Works All Year Round
While holiday weight gain may be a concern, achieving and maintain your ideal weight all year should be paramount throughout the whole year. After all, health and well being effects your life daily, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. If you apply the above steps throughout the year, gaining weight during the holidays will become less and less of an issue. However, if you have ever struggled to lose weight and stay at the right weight for your body, then you know how difficult it can be.
Recently, Dr. Richard Johnson of the University of Colorado, wrote a book called “The Fat Switch”. This book presents an innovative approach to prevent and reverse obesity. According to Dr. Johnson, based on his decades of research:
” People who are obese consume more food because they have a ‘switch’ defective and make fewer exercise because they have low energy levels.
If you can learn to control this specific ‘switch’ located in the power source of each of its cells – the mitochondria-will be the key to fighting obesity . “
There are five basic truths that Dr. Johnson explained in detail in this new book:
Reversing metabolic syndrome, a condition where the body stores fat at a rapid rate. Something that leads to holiday weight gain, and weight gain in general
How an increase in Uric acid levels, due to specific foods, causes obesity and insulin resistance
That it is sugars in the form of fructose that causes obesity, and not necessarily the calories
An effective treatment against obesity which requires deactiving the fat switch and improving the mitochondrial function of the cells
I highly recommend purchasing a copy of Dr Richardson’s book, which was described as an “Essential Guide” for anyone who has weight problems. Food sugar, especially fructose , “activates the fat switch”; so I apply this advice daily to maintain a total consumption of less than 25 grams of fructose per day.
However, for most people it would be wise to limit the consumption of fructose to around 15 grams per day, especially if you have high levels of uric acid, which can be an indicator of toxicity to fructose .
For most people, severely restrict non vegetables, carbohydrates such as sugars, fructose and grains, will be the key to losing weight.
Refined carbohydrates such as breakfast cereals, bagels, waffles, pretzels and most processed foods, are rapidly broken down into sugar. This increases insulin levels and causes insulin resistance, which is the main underlying factor to almost all diseases, including weight gain.
After eliminating these harmful agents, it is necessary to replace them with healthy foods, such as vegetables and healthy fats.
You will probably need to radically increase the amount of vegetables high in nutrients and low in carbohydrates you consume. Then you must add an adequate amount of exercise.
The key to boosting weight loss and get the most out of your exercise routine is to incorporate – two or three times a week – high – intensity exercise, such as HIIT .
Several studies have confirmed that exercise in short bursts with periods of rest between each burn more fat, compared to exercising continuously for an hour. And because each session lasts only 20 minutes, there’s really no excuse not to do it – preventing holiday weight gain and keeping you on track.
Fitness and training have always been a huge part of my life. As a nutrionist and health writer of over 5,000 fitness, weight loss and nutrition articles, I believe in the old adage, eating to live rather than living to eat. That being said, I think healthy food should be tasty and fitness should ALWAYS be fun.